We met near the WWI memorial. Her family name was engraved into the sad stone tribute. Read on, in today's story column.
From French Word-A-Day: don't miss this blog, for nearly 800 posts, words and stories.
entrelacer (ontr-lah-say) verb
to interlace, intertwine
Sound File & Example Sentence
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce these French words:
On a marché, mon amie et moi, les bras entrelacés en amitié.
We walked, my friend and I, arms interlaced in friendship.
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
Angels abound around every corner and if you are lucky you will meet them when you walk in love--my momma always showed me--with grace in your gait....
It's as easy as this: One minute you are pulling into the parking lot of an unfamiliar town--smoothing your hair... toning down your stars and stripes appearance, so as to fit in, hopefully, as a Frenchwoman--
and the next minute you are walking, arm in arm, with a stranger twice your age, chatting like old friends, of bygone days.
(...In the French town of St-Maurice Sur Eygues...)
"You haven't aged a bit!" Madame assures me. I look over to the elderly woman whose delicate arm is laced through my own. I notice how the sun sets off her silver curls. Looking into her pupils, time is erased. We walk on, this time as two venturesome girls.
We had picked each other up halfway down the street, just past the old, stone lavoir* where, unbeknownst to me, another chance meeting was about to take place, some fifteen minutes into the future, in between meeting Madame, and taking photos of an old Chateau up on the hill...
Presently, I studied Madame. I noticed she'd put on a jewel-toned scarf, noticed how it clashed, disarmingly, with her faded house-dress. Now this was a woman with whom I could unpack my heart.
"And so we meet again!" the woman exclaimed, cheerfully. Indeed we had met some ten minutes earlier, for the first time, after I had set out from le parking* to shoot the village. Shoot it not as it was shot at in WWI; I hoped only to capture its "colorful façade," not its people, not against their will.
It was not far from a WWI monument that Madame struck up the first of our two conversations. That is when I had explained that I was taking photos of the village, to share with others who love France, as I do. Madame smiled and there began our exchange: we talked about politics, architecture, the mundane ménage* that never goes away, but gets harder day, by aging day. We chatted, ditching traffic now and then (occasionally, a car would drive up or down the country lane, causing me to pull Madame forward, or to push her gently aside, depending. But Madame ignored the danger, content, instead, to focus on the rewarding risk of talking to a stranger).
"And so we meet again," Madame was now saying.
"Oh... yes," I answered, afraid of making Madame feel obligated. It seemed she was now on her way somewhere--what with that pretty dress-up scarf--and I didn't want to hold her back.
"Yes," I repeated. "I'm just taking a few more photos. I have to go and get my daughter now...
"Daughter? You have children?"
"Yes, an eleven- and a fourteen-year-old. Une fille et un garçon."*
"Oh, said, Madame, and that is when she flattered me:
"You certainly don't look old enough!"
"I am 41."
"Ce n'est pas vrai!"*
I was embarrassed by the first fruits of flattery: red cheeks, warm heart. If I didn't stop Madame now, I might be tempted to listen, un-haltingly. I reveled for a little instant longer (and what a delight and change this was from having one's age over-guessed, not that I have ever once asked to be judged -- but that does not stop others from offering, from accidentally tacking on "time" to a growing collection of facial lines).
"Et vous, Madame... Quel age avez-vous?"* Again, it is a question I don't dare ask (so as not to be asked) les dames d'un certain âge*... but this dame was different. This dame was divine and the heavens were whispering to me to inquire.
"Quatre-vingt quatre,"* Madame replied.
"You don't say!"
And on we walked and talked, helping each other along, now light on our feet: Madame on my arm, my own beneath hers, l'entrelacement des âmes et des dames.*
Post note: I gave Madame my calling card, with my web address, but I'm not sure she has internet. I also began to doubt that she has traveled beyond the Drôme... for when I named my home town (not ten miles from her own) Madame looked at me quizzically, as if I had just answered "Sicily". I realized then, that I was in the privileged presence of the venerable past... where people were content to know their neighbors, without the nagging, nefast need.. for newness.
Then again... given Madame's curious and energetic disposition, who's to say she's not penning her own blog post, at this very instant? In which case, I hope she is having as much fun in the recounting of this tranche de vie* as I have had writing my version of our story. Merci, Madame.
le lavoir (m) = washing place; le parking (m) = car park; le ménage (m) = housework; une fille et un garçon = a girl and a boy; quatre-vingt-quatre = eighty-four; Et vous, Madame. Quel âge avez-vous; ce n'est pas vrai = And you, Madame. How old are you? It isn't true; les dames d'un certain âge = women "of a certain age"; l'entrelacement (m) des âmes et des dames = the intertwining of women and souls; une tranche de vie = slice of life
More photos of St-Maurice--and beyond--in the upcoming editions of Cinéma Vérité: your gift when you commit to a contributing membership at French Word-A-Day. Thank you for helping me to continue to produce and distribute this seven-year-old journal -- and to share these pictures and stories.
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